A Night of Basketball in Happy Valley

July 25, 2016 at 11:45 am Leave a comment

Photo via Mark Selders

Photo via Mark Selders

For Penn State basketball, Wednesday night was all about the kids.

No, it wasn’t about the Nittany Lions’ highly-regarded recruiting class. Rather, it was about the children who participated in Growing the Game, the youth outdoor basketball league that formed because of a partnership between Penn State basketball and Centre Region Parks and Recreation.

The entire team made its way to Circleville Park on Wednesday for the boys championship games and wanted to get a message across to those in attendance.

“We’re here,” junior guard Shep Garner said. “We like coming out and supporting the community and let the little kids know that we’re fans, too. It’s not that they’re just our fans, we’re their fans, too. We want to come out and support as much as we can.”

Wednesday night resonated on a personal level with head coach Pat Chambers. He played basketball in environments like this when he was younger – outdoor courts on hot summer days – so this made him feel nostalgic.

“This is the way I learned how to play, in the parks,” Chambers said. “It taught me how to be tough, it taught me how to grow up like a man.”

Of course, there was some talk of the 2016-17 Nittany Lions. There is a ton of hype around the program, partly because of the returning talent it possesses (Garner was 14th in the Big Ten in scoring last year and ended the season on fire, while sophomore guard Josh Reaves established himself as one of the league’s peskiest defenders), and partly because of the guys who will suit up in the blue and white for the first time this fall.

There are the freshmen – Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, Joe Hampton, and Nazeer Bostick. The foursome makes up the best recruiting class in school history and the fourth-best class in the Big Ten, according to 247Sports. While they haven’t been on campus for long, Garner praised them for “meshing” and “buying in.”

Photo via Mark Selders

Photo via Mark Selders

There’s also a pair of players who were with the program last year but didn’t get the chance to play. Mike Watkins, a center out of Philadelphia, took an academic redshirt, while redshirt junior point guard Terrence Samuel sat out after transferring from UConn.

Neither guy has played a competitive basketball game since 2014, which is something that Chambers notices in the way they’ve played this summer.

“They just cannot wait to get on the floor and put that Penn State uniform on,” Chambers said. “Terrence worked really hard, Mike worked really hard, and they wanna see where their hard work is gonna take them and take this team.”

But on Wednesday, the future of Penn State hoops took a backseat to being a part of the community. Chambers mentioned that programs like this show that there is “a hunger for good basketball” in Happy Valley, while Garner was just excited to be around people playing the game.

“Any time you see a whole bunch of kids playing basketball,” Garner said, “I want to be a part of it.”

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

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Entry filed under: Athletics, State College. Tags: , , .

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